Sri Lankan President Wickremesinghe calls Rajapaksa to facilitate his return: Reports

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Sri Lankan President Ranil Wickremesinghe has reached out to his predecessor Gotabaya Rajapaksa to facilitate his return to the crisis-hit country, media reports said on Monday.

Rajapaksa, 73, fled the country and resigned last month in the face of a popular uprising against his government for mismanaging the island nation’s economy.

He is currently staying in a hotel in Bangkok with his wife Loma Rajapaksa.

The Daily Mirror newspaper, citing highly-placed sources, claimed Wickremesinghe is reported to have contacted Rajapaksa to discuss arrangements for his return to the country.

Sri Lanka’s ruling Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) party on Monday said that a request was made from Wickremesinghe to provide necessary facilities and security to Rajapaksa upon his return to the country, news portal Newsfirst.lk reported.

Attorney-at-Law Sagara Kariyawasam, the SLPP General Secretary said that following discussions with President Wickremesinghe last week, they received a positive response and are awaiting Rajapaksa’s return, the report said.

The date of Rajapaksa’s return has still not been finalised, it said, amid reports that he may arrive here this week from Bangkok.

Last week, the main Opposition party Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) said Rajapaksa has the right to return to the country, but he must be tried for allegations of misuse of funds since he does not enjoy legal immunity.

The Sri Lanka’s Constitution allows privileges to former presidents, including personal security and an office with staff.

SJB has accused Rajapaksa’s government of misusing the USD 1 billion loan facility extended by India as part of its financial assistance to help the cash-strapped island nation deal with its unprecedented economic crisis.

The Daily Mirror has also claimed that Rajapaksa’s lawyers in the United States had already begun the procedure last month for his application to obtain the Green Card as he was eligible to apply due to his wife being a US citizen.

In 2019, Rajapaksa renounced his US citizenship to contest the 2019 presidential polls.

Rajapaksa took an early retirement from the Sri Lanka Army and moved into the field of information technology, before immigrating to the United States in 1998.

The daily said Rajapaksa had consulted his lawyers and decided to return to Sri Lanka later this month as he was not allowed the freedom to move in Thailand as initially expected, due to security concerns.

Upon his arrival in Bangkok, Thai police advised the ousted President to remain indoors for security reasons.

The Bangkok Post newspaper reported that at the hotel, the location of which has not been disclosed, plainclothes police officers from the Special Branch Bureau had been deployed to ensure the safety of the Rajapaksas.

Rajapaksa fled to the Maldives last month and thereafter to Singapore.

He entered Singapore on a medical visa and had it extended twice to remain there as much as possible.

As his visa could not be extended further, Rajapaksa and his wife left for Thailand and was assured he could remain there for 90 days.

The Thai government had made it clear to Rajapaksa that he should not engage in political activities while staying in the country.

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